Fight­ing to erase stigma

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - by KYLIE WIL­SON

LOS­ING three peo­ple close to her be­fore the age of 21 has spurred Glen­rowan woman Liz Frazer to join the fight to erase the stigma of sui­cide and seek­ing help.

In the past year, she has be­come part of the re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tion Beech­worth to Bridge ( B2B), led by Beech­worth woman Lisa Car­tledge.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was formed by peo­ple af­fected by sui­cide, whose mis­sion is to re­move the stigma of sui­cide, im­prove the process of heal­ing and pro­mote the con­cept that de­pres­sion is treat­able and sui­cide is preventable.

Liz’s fa­ther, a Viet­nam vet­eran liv­ing with PTSD, took his own life when she was just 13, while her mother died by sui­cide just af­ter Liz turned 20.

She also lost a friend sud­denly soon af­ter fin­ish­ing school.

Liz said that go­ing through these ex­pe­ri­ences not only deeply af­fected her, but also made her de­ter­mined to fight the stigma and si­lence sur­round­ing sui­cide, and she has been mak­ing an im­pact by help­ing spread the word about B2B as its web­site and so­cial me­dia cre­ator.

She said that av­er­age num­bers of peo­ple who die by sui­cide are of­ten dou­ble the road toll, not­ing that while we are bom­barded with road safety cam­paigns, there are few sim­i­lar cam­paigns re­lated to sui­cide and men­tal health.

“It’s a cause close to my heart,” Liz said.

“The heal­ing jour­ney, and the im­pact of sui­cide, just goes on and on.

“We don’t talk about sui­cide and men­tal health, and it’s all around us.

“We’re try­ing to en­cour­age open con­ver­sa­tions. “It’s OK not to be OK.” Liz said she has been for­ever changed by her ex­pe­ri­ences, adding that it has helped her be­come more em­pa­thetic to­wards oth­ers, but has also made her hyper aware of other peo­ple’s emo­tions, which can some­times trig­ger anx­i­ety.

But she said there are many things peo­ple can do if they find them­selves strug­gling.

“The hard­est thing to do is just to say, ‘I need help’,” she said.

“Once you recog­nise your need, say some­thing, speak up – peo­ple will rally.

“There are sup­port ser­vices out there.

“No­body is in­vin­ci­ble, least of all me, and we owe it to each other to be present, of­fer real sup­port, and never fear to make the call for help when it is needed.”

Liz urged peo­ple want­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­nity to seek out “men­tal health first aid” cour­ses.

Mem­bers of the group are cur­rently un­der­tak­ing an “ele­phant walk” from Beech­worth to Syd­ney, spread­ing aware­ness, fundrais­ing and fos­ter­ing con­ver­sa­tion on the topic at lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties along the way.

Liz said the walk, led by Lisa Car­tledge, was so named be­cause sui­cide can be­come the “ele­phant in the room” that peo­ple do not dis­cuss.

Fel­low B2B mem­ber Shane Crispin said he came on board with the group be­cause “it’s so im­por­tant that we dis­cuss men­tal health and lived sui­cide ex­pe­ri­ences the same way we dis­cuss cancer and it’s lived ex­pe­ri­ences.

“If you have been touched by sui­cide, you’ll know the dam­ag­ing ef­fect it can have on sur­vivors when friends or rel­a­tives find your loved one is some­how un­men­tion­able, ta­boo, or shame­ful or your men­tal health is­sues are not dis­cussed openly and re­spect­fully,” she said.

“There is no shame in sui­cide or sur­viv­ing sui­cide.”

Shane said be­ing on the group has helped him form “life­long friend­ships” and that all in­volved are look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing their work with other events and ini­tia­tives in the fu­ture.

PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

DED­I­CATED TO THE CAUSE: Liz Frazer from Glen­rowan is among a group of North East res­i­dents work­ing to­wards break­ing down the bar­ri­ers of sui­cide stigma.

COM­MU­NITY SPIRIT: The Beech­worth to Bridge walk kicked off over Easter.

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